Graduate students

Mario Vargas

MV 2016


I joined the lab in September 2015 as a first year Master’s student in the Yeates School of Graduate Studies at Ryerson University. I am currently investigating bacterial proteins that are associated with resistance to host defense peptides, found on plasmids in adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC). I will be purifying and characterizing the proteins in order to determine the roles that they play in the resistance mechanisms of these bacteria. We anticipate that this research will be important in the ongoing study of Crohn’s disease, since AIEC has been found to be involved in this disease.

Youn Hee Cho

Cho, Youn Hee - photo

I joined the lab in May 2015. I am fourth year undergraduate student at Ryerson majoring in biological sciences. I’ve had a special interest in science for as long as I can remember, and I have lots of memories of trying out experiments I had seen on TV (frequently ending in a huge mess – much to the dismay of my parents).

My project in Dr. McPhee’s lab focuses on adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) resistance to host defense peptides. Specifically, I am investigating many AIEC strains for the differences between basal levels of resistance and resistance induced by specific growth conditions.

Michael Renouf

Michael is a first year Master’s student who joined the lab in July 2016. He received his BSc in Biology from Queen’s University in 2011 and has since worked as an industrial researcher. Michael’s project focuses on developing a Transposon-sequencing (Tn-seq) pipeline to perform large-scale mutant population analysis with strains of AIEC grown under different conditions. Outside of the lab, Michael is an avid cyclist, and a lifelong Blue Jays fan.

Adam Khan

I joined the McPhee lab in the fall of 2017 as a first year Master’s student. While completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, I developed a passion for the field of Microbiology and have been motivated to pursue a research-based degree ever since. I am working under the supervision of Dr. McPhee, primarily investigating the resistance response of different strains of adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) to a steady concentration of host defense peptides. Outside of the lab, I like to watch and play sports, travel, and watch more than my share of Netflix.

Undergraduate students

Abuzar Abedin

Abuzar is a third year undergraduate student who joined the lab in May 2017 as an NSERC Undergraduate Summer Assistant award recipient. Currently his project focuses on exploring morphological changes in E. coli related to protein QueE and it’s effect on resistance to host defence peptide. This project aims to provide insight that can further strengthen the current research of Crohn’s disease.

Riasad Aziz

Riasad is a fourth year undergraduate student majoring in Biomedical Sciences at Ryerson. He joined the lab in July 2016 as a volunteer and will be an undergraduate thesis student for the 2017-2018 academic year. Currently working as a URO student in the lab, Riasad’s work focuses on analyzing specific genes and proteins (and their interactions), such as arlAarlB, arlC, ompT and the PhoPQ two-component regulatory system in adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) that contribute to resistance against host defence peptides and are associated with colonization of the intestine in Crohn’s Disease. Apart from being a scientist interested in host-pathogen interactions, Riasad is a gamer, guitarist, hiker and an amateur archer.

Rebecca Cabral-Dias


I joined the lab in September 2015. I am a third year undergraduate student at Ryerson, majoring in biological sciences. I have always been interested in science, however my interests peaked when introduced to Bill Nye the science guy. I am doing a joint research project with Dr. McPhee and Dr. Antonescu. My project will focus on adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) internalization in intestinal epithelial cells. This research is vital due to the strong association between AIEC and Crohn’s disease.

Najih Ismail

I am a fourth year undergraduate student studying biomedical sciences at Ryerson University. I joined the lab in May 2017 and will be an undergraduate thesis student in the 2017-2018 academic year. I have always been interested in learning new things, which led me down the path to become interested in science. In my spare time I also enjoy playing sports, video games, and being outdoors. In particular, I have a passion for playing and watching soccer. My project in Dr. McPhee’s lab focuses on how different PmrD alleles affect polymyxin B resistance in adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC).

Ashuka Kayastha

I am a fourth year biomedical science undergraduate student at Ryerson University. I will be working with Dr. McPhee for my undergraduate thesis in 2017-2018. My research focuses on the ability of adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) to form biofilms when they lack particular surface structures. I found my interest in science with my love for experimentation and structure since the first time I performed an experiment for the first time in high school. During my free time, I like to unwind with pilates, reading and rewatching Brooklyn 99 for the nth time.

Shion Song

Tanuja Sutradhar

Tanuja Sutradhar is a fourth year undergraduate biomedical science student at Ryerson University. She has been working in this lab since June 2016. As a budding microbiologist, she developed an interested in studying the clinical application of microbes in improving health. Currently, her project focuses on  the production and regulation of the outer membrane b-barrel family of omptin proteases and their involvement in cleavage of the antimicrobial peptide LL-37.For the future, she hopes to study several more potent bacterial strains to help prevent the next potential devastating pandemic

Viktoria Weisz

I am a fourth year undergraduate student majoring in Biology at Ryerson. My love of science started young, when I was gifted a book on endangered and extinct animals which I quickly became fascinated with. Since May 2016, I’ve been volunteering in the McPhee Lab, performing assays to understand the biofilm forming capabilities of over a hundred Escherichia coli and Shigella strains in various growth conditions. Recently, I have decided to continue with this project as a summer research student to answer questions about the specific mechanisms of biofilm initiation and development in select E.coli strains. Through these experiments I hope to develop an understanding of biofilm development during intestinal colonization in IBD patients.

McPhee Lab Alumni

Jessica Kociper – undergraduate volunteer 2016-2017

Lauren Phillips – undergraduate thesis student 2016-2017

Veronica Cojocari – undergraduate thesis student 2015-16

Mariya-Nikol Leshchyshyn – undergraduate volunteer 2015-2016

Achjuthan Raveendran – undergraduate summer student 2016